Women’s cycling has been following an upward trend over the past two years. Interest and exposure is growing in leaps and bounds, the strength of the women’s peloton is skyrocketing every year, the standard and excitement of our racing is lifting with every race. But what is unfortunately not changing, are the attitudes of those in powerful positions and the attitudes of the women riding in the peloton.
I was brought up in a home and family where gender equality was not an exception, it was the norm. I have never been treated any differently to male family members or friends. I have always been encouraged to have an opinion and to stand for what I believe in.
In the male-dominated environment of the Chemical Engineering faculty, I was never made to feel inferior to my peers. Certainly, I was the minority in my class, but my male counterparts treated me with utmost respect and never considered my opinion any lesser. At university, male or female, we respected one another. We valued what each member, irrespective of gender, had to bring to the table, and so we worked together to get through a very challenging degree.
I come from a relationship where my husband supports me wholeheartedly. In fact, my very talented husband has chosen to put his sporting career aside to get 100 per cent behind mine. We are a team: he rides with me every day; he helps manage some of my endorsement deals and he works for the team that I ride in. He goes against everything society tell us to believe (the man should be the athlete and the woman should support) and because of that, I have the utmost respect for him. He is a very strong man, not because of his physical strength, but because he has decided to challenge the status quo. He has decided not to conform for conformity’s sake, but to do what his heart tells him to do.
Life has taught me thus far that playing the victim is no way to move forward. Through life experiences and the challenges I have faced thus far, I have learnt to take responsibility for what I want to achieve in life. I can’t always control my circumstances, but I can control how I respond to the challenges that are thrown my way. No one owes me anything; I owe it to myself to make things happen and to follow my dreams.
This background information is important. I give it in order to provide some understanding to the incredible frustration I now feel: the enormous frustration I experience in the challenges we face and continue to face in women’s sport. Why, in this day and age are we still fighting for gender equality and mutual respect?
- Taking responsibility for change
- Realising unity with other women
- Leading by example
- Being trustworthy
- Standing autonomously and not wavering
- Refusing to resort to using her sexual power to gain popularity
- Rejecting victim-hood
- Embracing a deep sense of passion
- All eight values are of utmost importance in order to influence change in women’s cycling. But the most important of all, is the realisation of strength in unity! The almost primitive, base trait of jealousy is the most limiting element a woman can succumb to.
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